Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh, which gave India one of its tallest Jat leaders and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, is set for a two-cornered fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal as it goes to polls on April 11 in the first phase of national elections.
Union Minister Satyapal Singh, the sitting lawmaker here, will contest against RLD's Jayant Chaudhary. In 2014, RLD founder Ajit Singh lost to Satyapal Singh with a margin of nearly two lakh vote. This time, he has handed over the mantle to his son Jayant Chaudhury.
One of the eight constituencies of the region that will be going to polls in the first phase, Baghpat has traditionally been a bastion of the Chaudhary family.
With less than a week remaining for the polls, Jayant Chaudhury has been campaigning rigorously in villages across the parliamentary constituency.
As NDTV spoke to him during his campaign at Malakpur village, he said: "I am focusing on local as well as national issues. The BJP government did not enforce any farmer-friendly policies. Satyapal Singh was a union minister and had ample opportunities but he did nothing."
BJP promised better education facilities but not enough has been done, the RLD leader insisted.
"In Baghpat, there is a lack of proper educational institutions. Sugarcane dues worth Rs 15,000 crore have been pending for long, but Satyapal Singh did nothing to help the farmers," he stressed.
The RLD is fighting in UP in alliance with Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samajwadi Party. Of the 80 seats in UP, SP is contesting on 37 seats, BSP on 38 seats, and the RLD will contest on three seats.
The alliance is said to be relying on arithmetic of previous vote-share. In 2014, the combined votes of the SP, BSP and the RLD came to 5.5 lakh - 1.3 lakh votes more than what the BJP got.
Satyapal Singh, former Mumbai Police Commissioner and also a Jat, denies that the arithmetic will go against him. "Arithmetic doesn't work, chemistry works to win.The people are with me. The alliance is living in its own paradise. In the last five years, a lot of work has been done; more than what was done in the last 50 years. Multiple projects have been implemented by us," he told NDTV.
Among the voters, the opinion is divided. Those supporting Satyapal Singh stress on the Modi factor.
Jitendra Dausa, a local, says: "We all support BJP. There has been no other prime minister like Modi, except for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is the youngsters of villages who join the army. When they die, it pains us. But with the kind of revenge Modi ji has taken (after Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir), it has boosted the morale and we are confident that we will retaliate with full might against Pakistan."
Farmers in Baghpat, as Jayant Chaudhary highlighted, complain about unpaid sugarcane dues from sugar mills and their lawmaker's absence.
Gajendra Singh, a 74-year-old farmer, says: "We farmers have endless complaints. We are not getting our sugarcane dues. Taxes are being levied on us. Our electricity bills are four-times higher. We are losing our land. We are on the verge of starvation.We will support RLD because it is the party of farmers and poor people."
Another resident, Shocky Chaudhary, says: "Ever since Satpal Singh won, we haven't seen him here. It seems like he went back to Mumbai to become the Commissioner again. We have no interest in voting for the BJP."
In 2014, Satyapal Singh had a sweeping victory against a divided opposition but unity among the SP, BSP and RLD and sugarcane farmers could make things difficult for him this time.
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